Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Manga or (wo)manga?

Manga (Japanese comic books) got some attention in today's New York Times. I don't know if this is a regular or recurring feature in the Times, but this is the second article on comic books I've seen from George Gene Gustines recently.

According to the article, "manga sales were $50 million to $60 million in 2002, and climbed to $90 million to $110 million in 2003." Wow. After reading that, my first question is why American comic books don't pull in anywhere near that kind of revenue. (Or do they? I seriously doubt it. I don't have any sales figures on hand, unfortunately.) I'm sure there are several "no, duh" answers that aren't occurring to me this early in the morning, but I think my viewpoint is too localized (a forest-for-the-trees kind of thing) to really figure out what's going on. (And American publishers like DC and Marvel are probably scratching their heads, wondering what the hell to do, too.)

The biggest reason for that discrepancy in sales seems to be female readers. Again from the article, "Manga often celebrates strong female characters in adventure yarns or stories focusing on love and relationships." Walk into a comic book shop and it's doubtful you'll see too many American comic books cater to that demographic. As I'm sure you already know or may have guessed, it's a nerdy sausage fest in there.

So maybe manga vs. American comic books is apples vs. oranges, but I'd love to see this rising tide lift all the boats. (Two cliches in one sentence? I can hear my writing professors wince.)